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Happy Independence Day!

But wait! What if you don’t feel so independent…

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What if you feel like this?

  • I have too many things hanging over my head… things that must be done….
  • In fact, I am a slave to my list.
  • I can’t bear to look at the darn list, but it visits me in my dreams.
  • Or, I wake up with a gasp, because… ack! Big things need to be done and I’m not doing them.

I doubt that anybody enjoys the feeling of being “owned” by the big, small, many, difficult, annoying, tedious or even vastly worthwhile things that must be done.

But guess what? There are cures.

Here’s a quick motivator:

Imagine how you will feel when Project X is done. (In reality, you’ll probably feel even better than you imagine because by then, it won’t be hanging over your head so much.) But don’t bask in the glory of the imaginary doneness (because that will make you less likely to actually do the work). Instead of basking, imagine yourself taking the steps to get there (and then feeling the sense of accomplishment).

Also, this fix often works: If Project X seems daunting… too big, too time-consuming to ever get done, then break it into smaller parts. As you finish each one, that builds momentum for continuing on.

Here are a few ways to conquer a pesky to do list.

  1. Cross stuff off that sounded like good ideas at the time, but that really don’t have to happen.
    If you have a Someday/Maybe list, it can go there. You can do it later, if you have discretionary time and you want to do it.
  2. Cross stuff off that you (realistically) are never going to do.
    That stuff is just pure stress. Get it out of sight.
  3. Delegate tasks, projects, even whole processes to someone else. Maybe you don’t know how to do it, but you’re not figuring it out, so the thing isn’t getting done.
    Ask a favor, trade something, hire someone.
  4. Find an easier way to accomplish the same thing. Can you send a 5-minute email or a 1-minute text rather than make a call that will inevitably stretch to half an hour or more?
    Not recommended as the only way to keep in touch with treasured family members.
  5. Keep things on your list that will help you to achieve your goals and that only you can do.
    Put your energy here.
  6. Schedule stuff. Block off time—on your calendar—appointments with yourself to work on X.
“Oh, I have something taking up a lot of my schedule tomorrow. Can we meet at 3:00 instead?”
  7. Pick one big project to work on every day (or most days). Make progress. Feel better. Put just the necessary effort into everything else.
    Once this big project is done, pick another one. Repeat as necessary.
  8. Do little things in the between times.
If you’re using the Pomodoro technique, schedule slightly longer breaks and do little tasks during breaks for a welcome change of pace.
  9. Note the things you can do with half a brain. When you’re tired from working on the big things, but still can do a little something, work on these things. File stuff. Wash your coffee cup. Fill out your expense report. Pay a bill.
    If you don’t have a list, it can be hard to remember these “half a brain” items when you’re tired and it’s the best time to do them.


Post | To Be More Productive: Get Started | Focus | Take Breaks

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